Dark Beds Diana Whitney starred book review
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STARRED Book Review: Dark Beds

DARK BEDS by Diana Whitney is a sensual, earthly collection of poetry centered around motherhood, marriage, and desire. Check out what Genevieve Hartman has to say in her book review of this June Road Press title.

Dark Beds

by Diana Whitney

Genre: Poetry

ISBN: 9781735678375

Print Length: 102 pages

Publisher: June Road Press

Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman

A sensual, earthly collection of poetry centered around motherhood, marriage, and desire

Diana Whitney’s second collection of poems explores the double entendre of “dark beds,” referring both to garden beds and to the bedroom. The lines are rich with images of the natural world and delve into experiences of motherhood, sexuality, and even infidelity.

Like much of the collection, the poem “Salad Days” describes the speaker’s family life, full of the chaos of two daughters, tended gardens and fresh-picked vegetables, and stolen moments by parents: 

Light the coals, my love—this is our fierce

barbecue, this is our one-hit-wonder indica

bud in the shed, your six-pack in the cellar,

my secret poems, your prophetic dreams,

my insatiable fire.

There is both an embrace of motherhood and domestic life, and a fierce reaction against it, as the speaker grows older. There are less trysts in the woods (though there are still some) and more worries to contend with, such as a mother’s memory fading from Alzheimer’s disease, a cyst in the speaker’s breast, a car crash that claims the life of a young girl.

In the speaker’s own words, they have grown “too old / for danger,” instead remaining vigilant to all that is vulnerable that they must protect—daughters, chickens, gardens, marriage vows. The speaker is by turns trapped by the confines of their life and satisfied by its fullness, caught between what they have done and what they wish to uphold. 

Even as they are surrounded by internal turmoil, the speaker revels in the changing seasons. From cold winter nights, to spring fever, to “Cresting the hill on a high tide of buttercups,” in “Summer Solstice,” the lush landscape is never far from the mind. The ordinary setting, a rural town surrounded by woods, is seen through new eyes, shimmering with the threat of danger and the thrill of illicit desire. As Whitney describes it, the natural world is a haven of beauty, a place of temptation, and a lesson in mortality all at once.

Whitney’s poems contain a kind of breathless tension that draws in the reader and compels them through each page, caught up in possibilities and what ifs. This is poetry of confession, ripe and ready to envelop the senses with its passion:

Call it lily of the valley, dense scent

rising from dark beds…

Call it inevitable,

call it cruel, call it the fury of spring…

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